Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El Damaty announced the launch of a fundraising campaign to reclaim the Sekhemka statue and the official halt of relations with the Northampton Museum during a press conference Saturday, according to a statement from the ministry.
The minister urged Egyptians, especially those in the United Kingdom, to raise funds to buy the 4,500-year-old statue so that Egypt can bring it back to the country, which he said was unethically sold by the U.K. museum in July 2014 to an unknown buyer for 15.76 million British pounds.
The controversial sale outraged campaign groups and Egyptologists alike, after which the British government imposed an export ban on the statue that expired on July 29 but was then extended at the beginning of August, moving the deadline to August 28.
Unless a new buyer expresses a serious intention to purchase the statue before Friday, the fate of the one of a kind ancient Egyptian artifact could be sealed as it is unlikely for the U.K. to extend the ban further without someone coming forward.
Moreover, Damaty said that this deadline was the last chance to buy the statue as he urged not just Egyptians but even admirers of Egyptology to express an intention to buy the statue, adding that the U.K. would extend the ban till March 2016 if a buyer made a clear intention to purchase the statue.
He also said that all international organizations, including UNESCO, "stand side by side with Egypt" in its attempt to save the statue by taking into account all legal procedures and ethical considerations that prohibit museums from selling its property, according to the statement.
The Sekhemka statue dates to ancient Egypt's 5th Dynasty, the period identified in Egyptology as the Old Kingdom. It depicts the court official Sekhemka sitting in a scribal pose and holding papyrus which lists various offerings, with his wife sitting by his feet.
The limestone statue, which is 75 centimeters tall, is considered the only one of its kind in the world, making it extremely valuable not only to Egypt's cultural heritage, but the world's. Some experts believe that if the statue leaves the U.K., it could never be seen again.